Despite what film noir and gritty nocturnal crime dramas would have us believe, sunny venues and beach vistas are as fertile grounds for criminal activity as dark alleys and deserted piers—especially those typically referred to as “white collar” crimes, like embezzlement and kickbacks. The tendency in Florida for condominium and clustered communities to be governed by property management firms, HOAs, and Community Development Districts (CDDs)—often with multiple and overlapping layers of administration—can set the stage for criminal activities.
Depending on the size of the property, tracking who does what, when, and where could keep a firm of certified public accountants up at night. Of course there are Florida statutes in place governing how associations should be run, but even so, there are ample opportunities for honest confusion and not so honest manipulation.
The Florida Sunshine Law, section 286.011 of the Florida Statutes, provides guidelines on how to keep information flowing correctly, honestly and openly (hence the 'Sunshine' of the law's title.) For example, all meetings must be posted in advance, open to the public and minutes must be taken and available for public inspection. CDDs must adhere strictly to this statute but, HOAs and COAs can often take a more flexible interpretation.
Violation of The Sunshine Law is a second degree misdemeanor which carries fines, attorney’s fees, removal from office and possible jail time.
It goes without saying that working closely with an experienced and reputable property management firm is a board's first line of defense in preventing criminal activity. Such a firm will have excellent recommendations and experience on how to identify and prevent any unsavory activity.